Panic buying across Kashmir, as valley heading towards another virtual shutdown

A day after a woman tested positive for coronavirus, Kashmir valley was headed towards a virtual lockdown on Thursday as restrictions were imposed on the movement of people in several parts and all public transport banned in Srinagar city.

The area within 300 metres radius of the house of the 67-year-old COVID-19 patient in Khanyar locality has been sealed off and officials of the Health Department are going house to house to check if any of her neighbours have symptoms of the disease, officials said.

Security forces have been deployed in strength in the old city to ensure that the restriction order on the movement of people is implemented in letter and spirit, they said.

However, it is an uphill task for the administration and health officials to track down everyone who has come in contact with the patient over the past couple of days.

“She returned from Saudi Arabia on March 16 after performing Umrah (minor Hajj pilgrimage). She received a number of visitors — relatives and neighbours — and it will be a tough task to track all of them down,” a Health Department official said on the condition of anonymity.

Some relatives of the woman are working at senior positions in the healthcare sector and police department, which has caused concern among official circles.

Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary urged all the people, who might have come in contact with the coronavirus patient after her return from Saudi Arabia on Monday, to report at the nearest health facility or contact the control room.

“It’s important that people who come in contact with coronavirus positive case(s) should immediately report to a nearest health facility or our 24×7 control room,” he said.

Regional Transport Officer Kashmir has imposed a ban on all forms of public transport within Srinagar city while also banning entry of any public transport vehicle from adjoining districts of the summer capital of the union territory.

Chaudhary said the restrictions on the movement and assembly of people was to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The restrictions on public gatherings, assembly and movement in many areas are aimed at avoiding the spread of any likely cases,” he tweeted and urged people to cooperate.

The deputy commissioner warned against any rumour-mongering about coronavirus.

“Rumours and unverified information shared on social media will certainly attract strict action. Let’s act like responsible citizens. Every information and advisory will be shared officially,” he said.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus scare resulted in panic buying across Kashmir on Thursday with people thronging grocery stories and petrol dispensing units.

Contrary to government’s directions to restrict public transport and minimize rush, large gatherings could be seen at departmental stores and petroleum outlets.

“I bought essential goods and baby foods fearing the situation may worsen in the coming days. It is better to stock supplies and quaran

tine myself along my family in our home till the situation improves,” said Bashir Ahmad Malik, a Srinagar resident.

“I am waiting but given the rush it may take another hour to me to get my turn to refill my car,” said Junaid Ahmad, a local at a petrol pump at Karan Nagar. Similar scenes were witnessed across the Kashmir Valley.

Speaking to Kashmir Post, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang Pole, appealed people not to hoard stocks. “There is no shortage of essential commodities; we have enough stocks that could last for a month.”

He said: “I urge people of Kashmir not to hoard and create panic as the government will ensure there is no shortage of any commodity in the market. But once panic buying starts, it creates problems. So desist from panic buying.”

Reports of people crowding grocery and general stores were received from many other parts of Srinagar even as Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary assured that the administration will ensure “effective services and supplies”.

His assurance came amid restrictions imposed on movement of people in several areas of Srinagar, a day after a 67-year-old woman in Srinagar, who had travelled outside the country, tested positive for covid-19. “Restriction imposed in #Srinagar city for containment of any likely spread of #Coronavirus. Medical teams are following SOP. There will be initial problems for a day or so. Adm will ensure effective